This morning, Marketplace on NPR reported that the state of Washington is looking to tax the owners of new electric vehicles for the gas they do not use.
Since gas taxes help pay for road maintenance and repair — and states are already seeing revenue shortfall and crumbling infrastructure — Washington is about dwindling road funds as more drivers go electric. Thus, the proposal of a $100/year “user fee” for drivers of electric vehicles. The Seattle Times estimates that a car with reasonable gas mileage that travels 12,000 miles.year pays $204 in gas taxes.
Much like how we fund, well, pretty much every common good — schools, health care, food inspection — electric cars start to raise the question of how road repair and construction is built. Depending on the state/county, such funds come from licensing taxes, vehicle purchase taxes, the general fund, real estate taxes, and gas taxes.
Taxing electric vehicle users for the gas they don’t use is a stop-gap, and brings to mind the common chestnut that cyclists don’t pay for the roads they use, either. I’ve addressed this before, and abundant stats on the household incomes of bicyclists exist — in 2009, 46.4% of cyclists lived in homes with a household income of at least $75,000, which is well above national averages. You can bet these homes are making economic contributions.
But then again, electric cars are more expensive (in general) than gas-powered cars right now, and also demand a lot more planning for charging, both at home and away. Electric cars are not likely to be purchased by people looking to save money or in lower income brackets, at least in the immediate future. Yet, the focus is on their failure to contribute via gas taxes. It really isn’t a stretch to wonder if more harebrained schemes to have cyclists “pay their way!” might be next.